Let's make do with what we've got to help us become more resilient
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It is evident from the media that many people are struggling to make ends meet and currently it appears to be the likelihood of many weeks and months ahead of shortages and increased prices. Maybe even another lost Christmas! It got me thinking of my childhood and also some of the stories my parents and grandparents told about hard times.
After World War II people became used to making do and hence there was a new generation of people who made their own clothes, grew their own vegetables, and serviced their own machinery. Granted that in many ways things were a lot simpler then, but I think some of us are suffering from “learned helplessness” in this modern world. What do I mean by this? We are a consumer driven society, where everything is done for us by someone; everything is quickly and easily accessible either online or in our supermarkets. And when there is a problem people generally seek help from others via the iPhone and internet. Have we been slowly losing the ability to sort and fix things ourselves?
Maybe we have to think about how we can become more robust and resilient in helping ourselves as households. I remember my mother making us clothes using her sewing machine and my father’s vast collection of tools and gadgets was a manufacturing unit in its own right, apart from serious electrics and plumbing he would fix anything and everything around the house. Have we lost many of these skills today?
Self-help is great within a community and we have seen so much more of it during lockdowns but it is also great within a household and equally so in the workplace. I recently reminisced that as a child I did not watch much TV, we only had three channels that eventually became four. So, myself and my sisters explored the wilds of Combe Martin. We entertained ourselves. We did not need to be entertained by our busy parents. We did not have new clothes, we wore hand-me-downs. We walked or cycled to places when buses were unavailable.
When something broke we mended it and we did not take it down to the tip for disposal. We built or created our own toys from the remnants of things around the house, our expectations of owning the latest iPhone or gadget did not exist. We were truly resilient and not so dependent on state support or easy borrowing. If you could not afford it you did not have it or saved for an age to buy something new. We went shopping twice a year to buy new school shoes and the odd new dress or item of school uniform. My eldest sister used to get the new clothes and we were so excited to receive her clothing that we had admired for so long. Now I know that life has changed and we will never return to those days and many may say thankfully so. There are many new technologies and advances that have improved our lives immensely but I do worry as we enter another period of post-Covid shortages that many of us will not remember or understand just how robust we can be as a nation, a community and as a family.
I question how some of the younger members of our consumer society, who have never known anything different, will be able to cope if certain commodities become unavailable and they lose the immediacy of getting what they want when they want it. I would never tar everyone with the same brush, I do realise that there are many people who are genuinely unable to help themselves. But there are also many people out there who can help themselves better and by learning to do so they may well realise the satisfaction and fun they can have in making do with what they’ve got.